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House To Vote On Historic Marijuana Legalization Bill

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The U.S. HOUSE is set to vote on a historic bill and if it passes then it would put an end to the federal prohibition of cannabis, putting the nail into the coffin of the failed “war on drugs.”

If the legislation passes it would then head to the Senate for a final vote to comprehensively put an end to the federal prohibition of cannabis allowing taxation of the plant, ABC News reported.

The vote will take place during the week of September 21, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). This will be the first time in the chamber’s history voting on federally legalizing cannabis.

In November, the House Judiciary passed House Resolution – 3884—the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act or MORE Act – in another important bipartisan vote. But since that decision passed, the law has been waiting on further action to be voted upon by the U.S House of Representatives to then be passed down to the Senate.

The MORE Act, introduced by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act, where it is currently scheduled as a Class 1 controlled substance. The bill would also expunge some marijuana-related criminal records, though it would still be ultimately up to states themselves to pass their own regulations on the sale of marijuana.

“It’s about time,” Nadler told USA TODAY, calling the forthcoming decision a “historic vote” marking the beginning of the end of the federal government’s “40-year, very misguided crusade” against marijuana.

Beyond that, banks would have the ability to offer credit cards and checking accounts to legal cannabis businesses, and the study of any potential medicinal benefits of the plant would be easier to undertake.

The act also authorizes a provision of resources, through a 5% federal retail sales tax on cannabis products, toward addressing the needs of communities who have suffered serious negative impacts from prohibition enforcement, especially those communities of persons’ of color that have suffered disproportionate over-policing and mass incarceration, TaxFoundation.org reported.

TaxFoundation reports:

“Federal legalization would have a massive impact on the marijuana markets in the states that currently allow sales and consumption—particularly on prices. Because legalization opens the way for interstate trade, it could revolutionize the business as brands become available nationwide and companies apply economies of scale. Currently, products must be grown, processed, sold, and consumed within state borders due to federal prohibition.”

The announcement by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., was welcomed by advocates for the legalization of cannabis.

“After many months of hard work and collaboration, we finally have a chance to end the failed policy of prohibition that has resulted in a long and shameful period of selective enforcement against people of color, especially Black men,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

“As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice,” Rep. Blumenauer added.

An ACLU report analyzing marijuana-related arrests from 2010 to 2018 found that Black people were 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession.

The MORE Act was initially opposed by Republicans, including many who supported a separate bipartisan cannabis reform bill called the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act.

However, the MORE Act goes much further than the STATES Act, which lacked the social equity elements and formal removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

“It’s the first-ever comprehensive marijuana legalization bill to ever be considered for a full House floor vote,” said Queen Adesuyi, national affairs policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

The removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I narcotic would mean that the plant would no longer be defined by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” shared with the same classification as LSD and heroin.

While five Senate Republicans have co-sponsored the STATES Act, while only one, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is the sole GOP cosponsor on the bill. Gaetz said in a podcast released on Tuesday that while he supports the proposal in principle a measure in the legislation that would distribute a portion of cannabis tax revenue to communities most impacted by the war on drugs, will be seen as “reparations” by the GOP controlled Senate.

Gaetz applauded the main stipulations of the bill, specifically removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and ending federal prohibition. He also said he’s in support of a proposal to provide expungements for prior cannabis convictions, recognizing racial disparities in marijuana-related arrests.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) was an original co-sponsor of the More Act and has put forward his own Marijuana Justice Act.

“This war on pot has not been a war on pot,” Booker said last year. “It has been a war on Black people and brown people and low-income people. This is not about the legalization of marijuana. That’s too simplistic. This is about restorative justice. It’s about equal justice under the law.”

According to a 2019 Gallup survey, 66% of Americans supported legalization, though support did differ by party. More than three-quarters of Democrats said they supported legalization, as opposed to about half of Republicans.

This isn’t the first time that a bill on marijuana was voted upon by the House, last year, a bill passed the House, only to be denied in the GOP controlled Senate. That bill also imposed a 5% tax on cannabis products that would provide job training and legal assistance to those hit hardest by the war on drugs.

Pennsylvania’s governor criticized the Republican-led legislature for failing to move on the proposal put forward last year.

“There’s nothing going on,” Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said at a press conference. “That’s why we’re having this press conference. We’re saying, ‘Remember a year ago?’”

Eleven states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, and 33 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have legalized medical marijuana, but marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.  If the recent bill passes legalizing marijuana on the federal level in the House, and it passes the Senate, that would be a big nail hammered into the coffin of the “war on drugs.”

Alex Baldridge is an activist and freelance journalist from the midwestern United States who was inspired to become a writer after watching the development of the Wikileaks story and the persecution of Julian Assange. Alex is especially interested in topics like surveillance, the rise of automation, foreign policy, prison reform, and the legal system.

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